The tragedy at the Boston Marathon earlier this month in Boston Massachusetts on April 15th has sparked another national conversation about Islam and Islamic extremism that can be tempered by highlighting authentic Islamic teachings and not resorting to prejudiced accusations that condemn an entire religion because of the actions of a misguided few. Graduate student Fatima Hye, who wears a hijab scarf covering her hair and the niqab that covers her entire face except for the eyes, was recently asked for her permission to be searched at the Worldfest film festival in Houston and although she says that she can understand why WorldFest’s founder Hunter Todd asked to search her it is unfortunate that she was subjected to such actions solely because of her appearance.
Ms. Hye is quoted as having said, “I do know that, you know, the attacks at the [Boston] Marathon had happened recently and stuff, and you know, I’m just not a very insensitive person. I know that people are going to react that way,” but she also says that she can’t remember the last time she felt discriminated against because of her Muslim appearance.
Mustafaa Carroll with the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says that the terrorist attacks in Boston contributed to a heightened level of Islamophobia and that, “We’ve had stereotyping of Muslims, it’s been going on. It hasn’t died out. But when you have a major incident like this one, it ramps up the fear again.”
Mr. Todd has issued a statement saying that “WorldFest apologizes for responding in a way that may have seemed insulting but ultimately, everyone’s safety was the primary concern.”
Although Mr. Todd cannot be faulted for his concern he can and should be held accountable for the prejudice that caused him to jump to the wrong conclusion and authentic Islamic teachings encourage the sharing of truth and knowledge as a means of countering injustices that are perpetrated because of prejudice or ignorance.
There are currently over 8 million estimated Muslims in North America with an approximate 7 million Muslims living within the U.S. according to Allied Media Corp and it has been documented that on average 200,000 people convert to Islam within the U.S. each year. Such a large number of annual conversions indicate Americans’ reception of Islam and the ability of many Americans to see the overall similarities between Christian and Islamic teachings.
A compelling argument posed by many Islamic scholars concerning why so many people living in a predominantly Christian country are converting to Islam is the continuity of the traditions of the prophets of the Judeo-Christian traditions and how Islam is not in conflict with Judaism and Christianity but rather a continuation of the faith practiced by those prophets and messengers of the Torah and the Bible. One fact that many Christians are not often aware of is that Muslims also believe in Jesus (PBUH) and recognize him as the Messiah and of those nearest to Allah. The Holy Quran reads in Surah 3 Ayat 45:
Behold! The angels said: “Oh Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of the company of those nearest to Allah;
The above ayah illustrates the similarities in belief between Christianity and Islam and another little known fact about Islam is that Jesus (PBUH) is mentioned by name 25 times in the Holy Quran as compared to the 5 times that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is mentioned which negates the claim that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is attempting to create a new religion that worships a different God from that of Jesus (PBUH).
Interfaith bridges of understanding can not only prevent human rights abuses that arise from ignorance and bigotry but can also facilitate the creation of a peaceful and productive community. The Christian kingdom of Abyssinia provided refuge to some of the early Muslim converts that were being persecuted in Arabia during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for their beliefs in Islam and the book entitled Muhammad, Man and Prophet written by Adil Salahi, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is said to have advised his companions to emigrate to Abyssinia “where the Christian King, Negus, was known for his abhorrence of injustice.” Many of the hadith narrations of the Prophet Muhammad’s life describe the emigration of the sahaba to Abyssinia and the peace that they experienced while practicing their Islamic beliefs there.
It was a Christian named Waraqa ibn Nawfal, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her, who confirmed the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) according to the following hadith which can be found in Sahih al Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3 it reads in part:
Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the PreIslamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.”
Yes, there is such a thing as Islamic extremism, but there are many Muslim and Christian scholars alike who embrace the continuity of the Abrahamic religions and who invest their time and knowledge in sharing their wisdom with others. God-willing, their efforts and the efforts of others like them who seek to shed light with truth will be accepted and can help to make the world in which we live a better place.
*PBUH: Peace be upon him
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